UPDATED: The Impact of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine (and the Resulting Economic Sanctions) on the Russian Community in Second Life

SEE ALSO: Slava Ukraini! Ways to Show Your Support for Ukraine in Second Life (And in Real Life, Too!)

I will be following up today’s blogpost about Russia with another one talking about the experience of the Ukrainian users of Second Life, an update to the post I linked to above. Stay tuned! Slava Ukraini!

Although Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, is headquartered in San Francisco, the 18-year-old virtual world is truly international, having players all over the world—including Russia, a country which is now the target of economic sanctions after Vladimir Putin and his army invaded Ukraine two weeks ago.

I have been glued to the news, following the endless updates and discussions on the r/WorldNews community on Reddit. I have been saddened, depressed and enraged by the footage that has been captured and shared with the world. But I also feel for those civilians who, through no fault of their own, have been caught up in this conflict and its consequences—among them, the everyday Ukrainian and Russian people who use virtual worlds like Second Life, and whom in many cases make a living from creating and selling virtual goods such as avatar clothing. (If you wish to support the many Ukrainian-owned businesses in Second Life, check out this list of 28 Ukrainian-owned stores in Second Life.)

My contacts with Russia are negligible, but I do have one link. Every day, I connect to Second Life – FREE (this is a little-known-about Russian-language group on Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook, which often lists items I don’t see on other freebie blogs). It’s part of my early morning scouting of Second Life steals, deals, and freebies, content which has proven to be quite popular on this blog!

Yesterday, I noticed that access to this site was much, much slower than usual, and there was the following announcement pinned at the top of the VKontakte group (I used the handy Google Translate app on my iPhone to translate the red sign, which says IMPORTANT INFORMATION!):

The English translation of the Russian text in the message (courtesy of DeepL):

Today, many chats and chat rooms are full of panicked fears that SL has started banning Russian users. This is NOT the case! Many of you know that as of 00:00 on March 14th, Facebook, Instagram and Meta are banned in Russia and blocked. There is a direct time correlation between midnight in different time zones (starting from Siberia) and problems logging into SL.
⚠ The blocking of Meta, FB, and Instagram has affected SL! ⚠
We believe that SL’s game servers coincided with Meta’s and therefore got blocked by the Russian Federation. I repeat, SL has NOT blocked anyone! This is a login problem on the Russian side!
‼Updated: Many people already have login without VPN‼

So, it would appear that the Russian users of Second Life are already having problems connecting to their favourite virtual world. A user on the r/WorldNews subReddit community on Reddit, who publishes regular, up-to-date compilations of everything that has been happening in the Ukraine war has reported that Russian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have begun a process to block VPN services from working in Russia, which would otherwise allow Russian citizens a way to bypass Russian-blocked online sites and services such as Second Life.

Wagner James Au, of the long-running Second Life blog New World Notes, wrote on March 10th:

Though Linden Lab has not yet announced any plans to ban payments from Russian users on its virtual world platform of Second Life, the US and EU banking sanctions have already taken their toll on SL content creators in Russia — especially those who depend on Second Life for their livelihood:

“After the blocking of PayPal,” as reader “Alex” explains in a recent comment, “all Russian creators were deprived of the opportunity to receive money from sales in SL. For many of them, working in SL is their main and only job.”

All this happens as Second Life users around the world create pro-Ukraine/anti-Russian images and the Second Life island of Moscow has been inundated by so many anti-invasion protesters, the owners resorted to posting a massive billboard in virtual Red Square, imploring visitors to refrain from activism (above). 

In group chats, Second Life content creators based in Russia are now privately discussing their options, but are reluctant to air them with the Second Life community at large: 

“[O]ut of sympathy and compassion for what is happening in Ukraine,” as Alex puts it, “Russian creators do not bring their problems into public discussion… Many [Russian SL] creators and their families are already left without a livelihood.”

Alex believes that some creators in the short term will continue creating in Second Life, even without a cash-out option, but “we will not be able to do this for a long time and will not be able to support our customers in the game as we have always done.”

The large billboard on the Moscow Island sim in Second Life, asking users to refrain from political activism

I end this blogpost with a reminder that you should always treat the other avatars you meet in any virtual world with respect. You have no idea about what’s going on with the person behind that avatar. Please be respectful, even if you do happen to disagree. It’s possible to hate the Ukraine war and still be friends with Russian people you meet in Second Life, who probably have nothing to do with this war.

UPDATE March 16th, 2022: The Second Life – FREE group on VKontakte has posted the following updated announcement (this English translation is once again via the excellent DeepL translator):

Is SL not working for you, too? ❓❓❓

This phrase recently appears regularly in our chat, every new person flies into the chat with this question and we are tired. So in a nutshell the situation: We don’t get banned by LL, we get unintentionally blocked by our own)

👉🏻 First: Linden Labs do NOT block Russians, there is no official information or at least their voiced anywhere position on the topic of possible blocking of SL residents from the RF {Russian Federation]. If you can go to your personal account on the official website and on the marketplace, then your account is not blocked.

👉🏻 Second: Roskomnadzor started blocking Instagram, and global crashes started for many uninvolved – so “broke” Wildberries and partly Votsap, glitches our entire Internet. Naturally, the servers of Second Life are also affected. That is why we are seeing SL failures, and not all users at the same time, but chaotically. You can log in, then fail, then after a while you are allowed in. Sometimes only Siberia suffers. Some users can log in with a VPN (many), but some can’t log in with any VPN, no matter what I’ve tried. It’s hard to say what is guaranteed to help.

👉🏻 Third: on Tuesdays and partly Wednesdays in SL technical work and login to SL always fails on these days. And the servers take turns rebooting, so some sims may be rebooted at the same time and others may work. Consequently, some will be able to get into SL, and some will not.

No need to panic. Losing access to your favorite Second Life is very disturbing, sad and some “break” without the usual virtual leisure time, but let’s keep calm and not turn chats into mass hysteria.

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